WHERE ON EARTH IS BLANKENFELDE?
Blankenfelde village church (image by Sebastian Wallroth)
If you are not from Berlin or are focused mainly on the city´s Western neighbourhoods (as, perhaps a bit sadly, often happens to be the case), you may very well find the title question intriguing.
Blankenfelde, located far out in the north, in the borough of Pankow – it is the only old Berlin village still almost entirely surrounded by fields and meadows – is a Berlin locality and it is the least populated locality in Germany´s capital to boot.
The reason for it might be in the place´s history: neither the 1240 village nor the Blankenfelde estate were particularly populous. The Thirty Years War left the whole of Brandenburg ravaged and Blankenfelde was no exception (for comparison, after the apparently endless fighting ceased, only twelve residents of Cöpenick were still alive). And the fact that in 1882 the city of Berlin bought both to establish here its Rieselfelder, sewage farms processing the human waste transported from Berlin by the new sewerage system, hardly helped to attract more residents.
Rieselfelder around Berlin (image through Berliner Wasserwerke)
Interestingly, despite that development, the village came to house a TB sanatorium and a hospital for less acute cases, while the Blankenfelde Estate provided Berlin with high quality fruit and vegetables as well as excellent milk and other horticultural produce. With the soil around the village made particularly fertile through what the city provided it with, one could actually talk about a very fruitful co-operation. In 1920, Blankenfelde became one of the villages and estates fully incorporated into the new Greater Berlin.
But where does the name come from? The village is said to owe it to its first owner, Johann I von Blankenfelde, most likely a Saxonian warrior (although it could be just as well the other way round as the thirteenth-century Germanic noblemen tended to take on the name of the place where they settled). His coat of arms – a red bridle standing between two red stars in a field of white and blue – became one of the best known family symbols in Brandenburg.
The Blankenfelds produced seven Berlin Mayors as well as a Mayor of Frankfurt Oder. Their “Stammhaus”, or family seat, was the famous Blankenfeldhaus in Spandauer Straße 49 in Mitte. Although they sold the building as early as in 1612 – to one Ambrosius Berndt, whose elegantly weaved name could be a title for an exciting historical Berlin novel – their coat of arms remained placed over the entrance.
Blankenfelde-Haus in Spandauer Straße 49, Mitte, with the Rotes Rathaus in the background – the spot is a large traffic knot with parking spaces today.
The building itself was finally demolished: from October 1, 1889 the plot housed the then largest electric power plant in Berlin. But the corbels, or keystones, in the shape of the several of the key Blankenfeldes´ heads found along with the coat of arms keystone during the demolition, were preserved and are on display, along with tens of thousands of other Berlin´s treasures, at the city history museum, at the Märkisches Museum.
Our next post will tell the story of what makes Berlin-Blankenfelde so special today:)
1. Blankenfelde village church (image by Sebastian Wallroth)
2. Rieselfelder around Berlin (image through Berliner Wasserwerke)
3. Blankenfelde-Haus in Spandauer Straße 49, Mitte, with the Rotes Rathaus in the background – the spot is a large traffic knot with parking spaces today.